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Lights Out for Lightning Bugs, June, 2024:
Lights Out 2023 (7).png

As we approach another summer and the 12th firefly season for the Pennsylvania Firefly Festival, the organizers along with our partners US Army Corps of Engineers Tionesta Lake, and Pittsburgh Dark Skies Association want to remind the residents of Forest County and campers in the Allegheny National Forest region that we have something unique and precious in our area that deserves our attention, respect and protection. The firefly is our State’s official insect and part of PAFF's mission is to protect the firefly and its habitat.  "Lights Out for Lightning Bugs" during the month of June 2024 is something simple and easy everyone can all do to help fireflies (aka Lightning Bugs) directly.  We encourage everyone in Forest County, and for that matter, across Pennsylvania to take part in this very easy but impactful practice.


Scientists believe that the world is losing firefly populations, and one reason is commonly referred to as light pollution or Artificial Light At Night (ALAN).  It may not be surprising to imagine that  nocturnal fireflies are especially prone to the impacts of ALAN, but just how and why has been a question for science.  

Researchers like Avalon Owens, Ph.D. from Tufts University have found concerning and compelling evidence that light of any color essentially shuts down the flashing replies of female fireflies to attract their mates.  If fireflies are blinded by lights (especially white and amber lights) or their flashes are overpowered by the extensive and prolonged light intrusion, they cannot find a mate and thereby, the next generation is lost.


So,  we can help the fireflies and lightning bugs in our own yards find each other.  We are encouraging everyone to participate by turning off outdoor lighting for the entire month of June, because this is the mating season of many firefly species in Pennsylvania.  You may even discover you can keep off the lights through the end of summer. 


If you can't do without lightning,  there are ways to mitigate your lighting that is still helpful.  Try installing shades, screens or plantings that will prevent the light from shining into the sky or intruding into the surrounding habitat including your neighbor's windows. Also consider installing a timer or motion detector, so lights don’t burn all night.  You may even notice effects to your electric bill.


illustration by P. Butler, 2021


Artificial Light At Night (ALAN) not only impacts fireflies; it also impacts other nocturnal animals like moths, birds, bats and reptiles. There are also studies and research that suggest the natural sleep/wake cycles of human beings are also disrupted by the use of artificial lights and screens.  Poor sleep leads to more health and wellness issues.  So, we need to let our eyes and brains experience more darkness.   We need to get more comfortable with and embrace the darkness. 


Allow yourself to experience a truly dark night this summer.  Turn out the lights, sit on your porch or around a dim glowing campfire.  Let your eyes adjust and you’ll be amazed by what you can see. You could see a spectacular firefly show.  

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